The noble Rottweiler is known for its loyalty, affection and courage. However, in what appears to be a contradiction to these characteristics, many owners ask, “why do Rottweilers growl when happy?”
Enough to stoke a bit of fear into any owner is what’s commonly known as the Rottie grumble. Though this comes in varying degrees of snarling, teeth showing and grumbling. It ranges from sometimes quite endearing to frankly, quite terrifying.
If you’re new to the breed and unaware of this characteristic, then this may seem overwhelming at first. But the more seasoned Rottie owners have learned to appreciate it and sometimes even have fun with it, in a sense of bonding.
It’s obviously important to recognise when your Rottweiler is grumbling with happiness or growling because of something more sinister, for those of you that are new to this, the difference is extremely subtle as you’ll discover later.
So, why do Rottweilers growl when happy? And, how do you go about dealing with this? We’ll answer these questions as we go, along with listing the other potential reasons for growling.
Before we jump in, it’s important to note that we treat all dogs as individuals. It’s crucial to pay attention to your Rottie’s behaviour and body language cues if you’re trying to correctly interpret what your dog is trying to communicate. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to seek advice from a dog behaviour expert.
Why do rottweilers growl when happy?
The are multiple reasons why your Rottweiler growls when happy, these are:
- Playful Communication: In many cases, a Rottweiler might growl when happy as a form of communication during playtime. If the growling is accompanied by wagging tails, a relaxed body language, and playful behaviour, it’s a sign they’re having fun and enjoying themselves. This is often seen when they are playing with other dogs or humans.
- Contentment: Sometimes dogs growl softly when they’re being petted or stroked, especially in their favourite spots. This is their way of expressing pleasure and contentment. They can growl lightly to show that they are enjoying the moment.
- Attention Seeking: Dogs can growl when they’re happy to get your attention. They learn what behaviours get them attention from their owners, and if growling has led to positive attention in the past, they may continue to do so when they’re happy or want interaction.
- Vocalisation Habit: Some dogs are just more vocal than others. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re aggressive or unhappy, it’s just their way of expressing themselves. It’s similar to how some people talk or laugh more when they’re excited. Let’s not forget that the Rottie is a protective breed, this means they’re more expressive than some people realise and like to communicate.
- Training: If a Rottweiler has been trained to “speak” or growl on command, they might also use this behaviour to communicate their happiness.
There are perhaps more obscure reasons behind why Rottweilers growl when you pet them, one theory may be the docking of tails. The tail is used to communicate a lot of emotions from happiness to fear. A lack of tail may force Rottweilers to become more vocal as their form of communication, hence the famous Rottie grumble. Perhaps it would be interesting to see if Rottweilers with tails grumble less than those without?
However, one thing is for sure, like many of the Mastiff breeds, the Rottweiler loves being with their human family members and are often more sensitive than prospective new owners first realise.
It’s very likely that they are enjoying the moment. Whether it’s a good old belly scratch or a tickle around the muzzle, your Rottie is likely just communicating that it’s enjoying it and doesn’t want you to stop. It’s best to think of the Rottweilers happy growl to that of a cat’s purr.
Why do Rottweilers show their teeth more when they’re happy?
Rottweilers show their teeth when they’re happy because this is how they express their excitement of having you around, petting them and playing with them. It’s often counterintuitive and doesn’t do wonders for the perception of the breed, but once you fully understand Rottie behaviour, it’s par for the course.
Understanding the behaviour around this is difficult, however we suggest that owners remain calm and playful, whilst also looking to assess other communication cues such as a wagging tail and submissive body language such as rolling on their back and showing you their belly.
How can you tell the difference between happiness and aggression?
Although much of this will come from experience and learned intuition, owners can usually tell the difference between the classic Rottie grumble and genuine aggressions by the following:
Dogs communicate a lot through their body language. A happy or playful dog generally has relaxed body language. They may wag their tail, have relaxed ears, and an open mouth that resembles a doggy smile. Their eyes will be normal or wide, not narrowed or glaring.
On the other hand, an aggressive or fearful dog will typically have rigid body language. Their hackles may be raised, ears flattened or pointed forward, lips curled to display teeth, tail straight up or tucked between the legs, and a hard stare or narrowed eyes.
Understanding the context is crucial. If a Rottweiler is growling while playing, being petted, or during a happy interaction with a person or other dog, it’s likely a friendly growl.
But if the dog growls when approached while eating, if a particular resource (like a favourite toy) is approached, or when a stranger enters the home, these could potentially be signs of aggression or fear.
The Sound of the Growl
Aggressive growls usually have a different tone compared to playful or happy growls. They tend to be lower and may seem to come from deeper in the throat. Playful growls can be higher pitched and sound less threatening. However, this can vary between individual dogs. Therefore, as an owner this is something that you will have to learn to differentiate between.
Intensity and Duration
An aggressive growl tends to increase in intensity and often continues until the perceived threat is removed. Playful growls may fluctuate in volume and are usually brief or intermittent.
To better help you try to differentiate between a happy Rottweiler grumble and a genuine growl, you can view the below video.
Additionally, there’s strangely a TikTok trend of owners showing their Rottie grumbles.
Rottweiler growls when happy, TikTok Trend
So, hopefully we’ve learnt how to distinguish between a happy Rottweiler growl and an aggressive growl. But, other than happiness, what are some other reasons why your Rottweiler may growl?
Other reasons your Rottweiler may growl
Just like humans, dogs can experience anxiety, and one common type is separation anxiety. Rottweilers are known for their loyalty and strong bond with their owners. If your Rottweiler growls or whines when you’re about to leave the house, it could be a sign of separation anxiety.
Rottweilers might also growl as a way of greeting you. This is typically a low, short growl accompanied by a wagging tail and relaxed body language. It may be their unique way of saying hello! This may be amplified if your Rottie suffers with separation anxiety.
These dogs have a natural instinct to protect their family and territory. If a stranger approaches or there’s an unfamiliar sound, your Rottweiler may growl as a warning signal. This is their way of saying “stay back” to potential threats.
Fear or discomfort can cause a Rottweiler to growl. This could be a response to an unfamiliar environment, loud noises, or other perceived threats. The growling is a signal for whatever is causing their fear to back off.
If your Rottweiler growls at other dogs or people, they could be asserting their dominance. This behaviour is common in situations where they feel their position in the social hierarchy is being challenged.
Dogs can’t tell us when they’re in pain, so they use other methods to communicate. If your Rottweiler is growling and showing other signs of discomfort (like limping, loss of appetite, or changes in behaviour), it could be an indication that they’re in pain.
Lastly, food aggression is a common behaviour in many dogs, including Rottweilers, especially if unsocialised and poorly trained. If your dog growls when someone approaches them while they’re eating, it’s likely a sign of food aggression.
Recognising the reason behind your Rottweiler’s growl helps you better understand and meet their needs. This is a great ownership quality, leading to stronger bonding and a reduction in frustration which can lead to resentment from both the dog and humans. Remember, sudden changes in behaviour or unprovoked aggression should always be checked by a vet or a professional behaviourist.
How should you react to the Rottie grumble?
- Remain calm. Look for body language cues and context to ensure that it’s just a happy and playful grumble. Training your ear will also come naturally over time.
- Socialisation. You can socialise your puppy to limit its tendency for aggressive growling, this should help reassure you that whatever growling happens, it’s more likely to be from a place of happiness.
- Good leadership. Like other Mastiff breeds, the Rottweiler thrives off good leadership from the owner. A lack of calm but assertive leadership skills can lead to the Rottweiler feeling like it needs to adopt an alpha role which may produce more fear and thus aggression.
- Positive reinforcement. At the heart of productive doggy training is positive reinforcement. Reward your dog for good behaviour, be careful not to reward negative and aggressive behaviour.
Closing thoughts on why do Rottweilers growl when happy?
As always, there’s a lot to learn about dog ownership, be that general care information or breed specific characteristics. For new owners of the Rottweiler, the happy growl may be daunting at first, but as time passes and you gain more experience, you’ll likely come to appreciate this quirky behaviour.
Remember the snarling and showing of teeth often stem from excitement and your Rottweiler is simply communicating its pleasure of having you as company. Granted, it’s unique.
However, stay vigilant, remember to judge the growl alongside your dog’s general mood, body language and context of the situation. You’ll likely develop an ear for the difference between happiness and aggression.
Stay calm, socialise and train well and you will have a long-lasting bond with the popular Rottweiler.
Frequently asked questions around “Do Rottweilers growl when happy?”
Q:Is it normal for Rottweilers to growl at owners?
A: The Rottie grumble is a common behaviour characteristic that occurs in the Rottweiler breed. Although it’s not exclusive to the breed, it is commonplace and has even become a TikTok trend. The growl is typically used to communicate happiness and excitement.
Q:Why does my Rottweiler growl when I pick him up?
A: This could be for numerous reasons, it may be a playful growl, however it may also be because your Rottweiler does not enjoy it and wishes to be put down. Owners should look to judge the body language, context and sound to assess the reasons for the growl. If unsure, speak to a behaviour specialist.
Q: Do rottweilers growl like cats purr?
A: The Rottie grumble is often likened to a cat’s purr. It is a characteristic used to communicate happiness, comfort and pleasure which is the same for a cat.